With Hugo Lloris now joining the MLS ranks, we take a look at some of the top goalkeepers to ever grace the league — based on both performance and overall pedigree.
MLS is no stranger to bringing over aging stars from Europe to provide teams with leadership, experience, and marketability — but typically, these stars feature in the outfield.
LAFC has chosen to flip the script and sign French World Cup-winning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from Tottenham. His reputation speaks for itself — in addition to the aforementioned World Cup title, Lloris boasts a resume that includes 145 caps for France (the most of any French player), 361 appearances in the Premier League, and 127 clean sheets for the Lillywhites of Tottenham, where he was captain since 2015.
He’s one of the best net minders of his generation, and he instantly becomes one of the most talented goalkeepers to ever play in MLS. In terms of overall pedigree, you could argue that he’s second to only one previous MLS keeper (more on that in a bit).
This had us thinking, who are the best goalies in MLS history? We take a look at some of the best to ever grace the league based on their performances while Stateside, total career achievements, and overall influence on the game in the United States.
It would feel wrong if we didn’t start with arguably the most famous American goalkeeper of all time, Tim Howard. The North Brunswick, New Jersey native played in well over 650 professional games in his career, starting with the NY/NJ MetroStars before going on to play for Manchester United, Everton, Colorado Rapids, and eventually Memphis 901 in the USL where he finished his career.
More important to his career legacy was his time playing for the United States men’s national team, where he starred and had the most heralded performance in USMNT World Cup history. In the 2014 World Cup round of 16 against Belgium, Howard broke the record for most saves in a match with 15.
#ThingsTimHowardCouldSave became a meme in the nascent days of internet memes, and he became the standard when it came to an already impressive list of USMNT goalkeepers.
Howard’s impact on MLS and soccer in America as a whole is hard to overstate. His career stretched over multiple decades, and with his position as Sporting Director and part-owner at Memphis 901, his legacy is still growing.
Sticking with a similar generation, we have Nick Rimando, who holds the record for most MLS appearances with 514. He spent his entire 19-year career in MLS with three different clubs, and is most well known for his time with Real Salt Lake, where he amassed 389 appearances across 12 seasons.
Rimando was the quintessential MLS keeper, setting the standard by not only the amount of appearances he made, but the accolades he achieved as well. In addition to a pair of MLS Cup trophies and an MLS Cup MVP in 2009, Rimando was a six-time MLS All-Star, although interestingly enough he never was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, finishing runner-up in 2013 and 2014.
In addition, Rimando enjoyed a stretch at the international level with the USMNT, where he mainly served as Howard’s backup, featuring 22 times between 2002-2018.
When it comes to MLS goalkeepers, Rimando is the standard.
The first non-American on this list, Jamaican international Andre Blake has been an institution in MLS for his 10-year career. He’s spent each season with the Philadelphia Union, and he’s featured in 275 matches, recording an impressive 88 clean sheets across all competitions along the way.
Alongside his club career has been his stellar international career with the Reggae Boyz, as he has 73 appearances and has consistently been the No. 1 since he was drafted in 2014.
While Blake has won a few trophies with the Union and Jamaica, most of his accolades have been for his individual performances. He is a four-time MLS All-Star, three-time MLS Best XI member (and therefore three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner), and won the Golden Glove award for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
With Blake only having one year left on his contract, it will be interesting to see what happens. I’m sure many Union fans want him to be a lifelong player, but now at 33, he’s beginning to enter the back end of his career and the club may be looking to find his successor between the sticks.
While Júlio César’s MLS stint was short (he only made seven appearances for Toronto FC), his career resume is one of the best the league has seen, regardless of position. As a starter, César won five Serie A Scudetti’s, a UEFA Champions League, a Club World Cup, and the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year award during his time at Inter Milan. Additionally, César earned 87 caps for Brazil, with a 2004 Copa America title to his name.
Resume aside, his time at Toronto FC was forgettable, but he still found a way to enjoy success later, as he went on to win three league titles with Benfica before returning to Brazil to play for Flamengo, where he retired in 2018.
As the only comparable resume to Lloris’, LAFC will be hoping that their new keeper’s time in the league will be longer and more productive than the short-lived Canadian experience that César had.
Back-to-back on this list are goalkeepers who played for Toronto FC, but unlike César, Stefan Frei became a stalwart in MLS.
Once a highly touted Generation adidas draft pick, Frei was displaced from his starting spot at Toronto FC due to injury and was eventually traded to Seattle. This trade led to heartbreak on two fronts for Toronto fans, as they missed out on an All-Star level shot-stopper, but perhaps more devastating was his spectacular extra time save in the 2016 MLS Cup Final which prevented Toronto from winning its first MLS Cup title.
Frei would go on to win two MLS Cups, a Supporters’ Shield, the U.S. Open Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League with Seattle, and he’s cemented himself as a consummate winner in the league. While he might not be a household name like others on this list, his time in MLS has been historic, and he will undoubtedly be a club legend long after he chooses to retire.
It would be hard to make this list without adding the USMNT’s most unlikely No. 1, Matt Turner. He didn’t start playing organized football until he was 14, and chose to play in the net purely because the other keeper at tryouts got injured. Turner certainly should be thanking those kids because otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2021 or the FA Community Shield in 2023 with Arsenal before his multi-million dollar move to Nottingham Forest.
While Turner isn’t the first goalkeeper to go from MLS to the Premier League, considering the fact that he was undrafted out of college, he might be the biggest surprise to make the jump. For him to even make it to the pro ranks is enough of a Cinderella story, but to be a starter for a Premier League club and at the World Cup is all the more impressive.